REAL ID Act of 2005
Great Seal of the United States.
Full title To establish and rapidly implement regulations for State driver's license and identification document security standards, to prevent terrorists from abusing the asylum laws of the United States, to unify terrorism-related grounds for inadmissibility and removal, and to ensure expeditious construction of the San Diego border fence.
Effective May 11, 2008[1] (original);
January 15, 2013[2] (current)
Public Law 109-13
Legislative history
Major amendments
Relevant Supreme Court cases

The REAL ID Act of 2005, Pub.L. 109-13, 119 Stat. 302, enacted May 11, 2005, was an Act of Congress that modified U.S. federal law pertaining to security, authentication, and issuance procedures standards for the state driver's licenses and identification (ID) cards, as well as various immigration issues pertaining to terrorism.

The law set forth certain requirements for state driver's licenses and ID cards to be accepted by the federal government for "official purposes", as defined by the Secretary of Homeland Security. The Secretary of Homeland Security has currently defined "official purposes" as presenting state driver's licenses and identification cards for boarding commercially operated airline flights and entering federal buildings and nuclear power plants.

The REAL ID Act implements the following:

  • Title II of the act establishes new federal standards for state-issued driver licenses and non-driver identification cards.
  • Changing visa limits for temporary workers, nurses, and Australian citizens.
  • Funding some reports and pilot projects related to border security.
  • Introducing rules covering "delivery bonds" (similar to bail bonds but for aliens who have been released pending hearings).
  • Updating and tightening the laws on application for asylum and deportation of aliens for terrorist activity.
  • Waiving laws that interfere with construction of physical barriers at the borders.

As of April 2, 2008, all 50 states have either applied for extensions of the original May 11, 2008 compliance deadline or received unsolicited extensions.[4] As of October 2009, 25 states have approved either resolutions or binding legislation not to participate in the program, and with President Obama's selection of Janet Napolitano (a prominent critic of the program) to head the Department of Homeland Security, the future of the law remains uncertain,[5] and bills have been introduced into Congress to amend or repeal it.[6] The most recent of these, dubbed PASS ID, would eliminate many of the more burdensome technological requirements but still require states to meet federal standards in order to have their ID cards accepted by federal agencies.


Legislative history

The Real ID Act started off as H.R. 418, which passed the House[7] and went stagnant. Representative James Sensenbrenner (R) of Wisconsin, the author of the original Real ID Act, then attached it as a rider on a military spending bill, H.R. 1268, the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief, 2005. The House of Representatives passed that spending bill with the Real ID rider 368–58,[8] and the Senate passed the joint House-Senate conference report on that bill 100–0.[9] President Bush signed it into law on May 11, 2005.[3]

On March 2, 2007, it was announced that enforcement of the Act would be postponed for two years.[10] The provisions of the bill will be delayed from going into effect until December 2009. On January 11, 2008, it was announced that the deadline has been extended again, until 2011, in hopes of gaining more support from states.[11] On the same date the Department of Homeland Security released the final rule[12] regarding the implementation of the driver's licenses provisions of the Real ID Act.[13]


IDs and driver's licenses as identification

In the United States, driver's licenses are issued by the states, not by the federal government. Additionally, because the United States has no national identification card and because of the widespread use of cars, driver's licenses have been used as a de facto standard form of identification within the country. For non-drivers, states also issue voluntary identification cards which do not grant driving privileges. Prior to the REAL ID Act, each state set its own rules and criteria regarding the issuance of a driver's license or identification card, including the look of the card, what data is on the card, what documents must be provided to obtain one, and what information is stored in each state's database of licensed drivers and identification card holders.

Federally mandated standards for state driver's licenses or ID cards

Driver's license implications

  • The REAL ID Act's implications for driver's licenses and ID cards is detailed in Title II of the Act. Title II of REAL ID — “Improved Security for Driver’s License and Personal Identification Cards” — repeals the driver's licenses provisions of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act,[14] also known as the "9/11 Commission Implementation Act of 2004", that was enacted in December 2004. Section 7212 of that law established a cooperative state-federal process, via a negotiated rule-making procedure, to create federal standards for driver’s licenses.

Instead, the Real ID Act directly imposes specific federal driver’s license standards.

The REAL ID Act Driver's License Summary[15] details the following provisions of the Act's driver's license title:

  • Authority
  • Data Retention and Storage
  • DL/ID Document Standards
  • Grants to States
  • Immigration Requirements
  • Linking of Databases
  • Minimum DL/ID Issuance Standards
  • Minimum Standards for Federal Use
  • Repeal of 9/11 Commission Implementation Act DL/ID Provisions
  • Security and Fraud Prevention Standards
  • Verification of Documents

After 2011, "a Federal agency may not accept, for any official purpose, a driver's license or identification card issued by a state to any person unless the state is meeting the requirements" specified in the REAL ID Act. The DHS will continue to consider additional ways in which a REAL ID license can or should be used for official federal purposes without seeking the approval of Congress before doing so. States remain free to also issue non-complying licenses and IDs, so long as these have a unique design and a clear statement that they cannot be accepted for any Federal identification purpose. The federal Transportation Security Administration is responsible for security check-in at airports, so bearers of non-compliant documents would no longer be able to travel on common carrier aircraft without additional screening unless they had an alternative government-issued photo ID.[16]

People born on or after December 1, 1964, will have to obtain a REAL ID by December 1, 2014. Those born before December 1, 1964, will have until December 1, 2017 to obtain their REAL ID.[17]

The national license/ID standards cover:

  • How the states must share their databases both domestically and internationally through AAMVA.
  • What data must be included on the card and what technology it is encoded with;
  • What documentation must be presented and electronically stored before a card can be issued.

Strictly speaking, many of these requirements are not new. They replace similar language in Section 7212 of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (Pub.L. 108-458), which had not yet gone into effect before being repealed by the Real ID Act.

Data requirements

A Real ID-compliant form of identification requires, at a minimum, the following pieces of data:

  • Full legal name,
  • Signature,
  • Date of birth,
  • Gender,
  • Unique, identifying number,
  • Principal residence address,
  • Front-facing photograph of the applicant.

Said cards must also feature specific security features intended to prevent tampering, counterfeiting, or duplication of the document for fraudulent purposes. These cards must also present data in a common, machine-readable format (bar codes, Smart card technology, et al.). Although the use of wireless RFID chips was offered for consideration in the proposed rulemaking process, it was not included in the latest rulemaking process.[18] DHS could consider additional technological requirements to be incorporated into the licenses after consulting with the states. In addition, DHS has required the use of RFID chips in its Enhanced Driver's License program, which the Department is proposing as an alternative to REAL ID.[19]

Documentation required before issuing a license or ID card

Before a card can be issued, the applicant must provide the following documentation:[20]

  • A photo ID, or a non-photo ID that includes full legal name and birthdate.
  • Documentation of birth date.
  • Documentation of legal status and Social Security number
  • Documentation showing name and principal residence address.

Digital images of each identity document will be stored in each state DMV database.

Document Verification Requirements

Section 202(c)(3) of the Real ID Act[21] requires the states to "verify, with the issuing agency, the issuance, validity, and completeness of each document" that is required to be presented by a driver's license applicant to prove their identity, birth date, legal status in the U.S., social security number and the address of their principal residence. The same section states that the only foreign document acceptable is a foreign passport.

The DHS final rule[12] regarding implementation of the Real ID Act driver's license provisions relaxes, and in some instances waives altogether, these verification requirements of the Real ID Act. Thus the DHS rule concedes that there is no practical mechanism to verify with the issuers the validity of documents proving the applicant's primary address (such as a mortgage statement or a utility bill) and leaves the implementation of this verification requirement to discretion of the states (page 5297 of the DHS final rule in the Federal Register).[12] However, the DHS rule, Section 37.11(c), mandates that the Real ID license applicants be required to present at least two documents documenting the address of their primary residence.

The DHS rule declines to implement, as impractical, the provision of the Act requiring verification of the validity of foreign passports, presented by foreign driver's license applicants as proof of identity, with the authorities that issued these foreign passports (page 5294 of the DHS final rule in the Federal Register).[12]

Section 37.11(c) of the DHS final rule allows the states to accept several types of documents as proof of social security number: a social security card, a W-2 form, an SSA-1099 form, a non-SSA-1099 form, or a pay stub bearing the applicant's name and SSN. However, the states are not required to verify the validity of these documents directly with their issuers (e.g. with the employer that issued a W-2 form or a pay stub). Instead, the DHS rule requires the states to verify the validity, and its match with the name given, of the social security number itself, via electronically querying the Social Security On-Line Verification (SSOLV) database managed by the Social Security Administration.

The DHS rule, Section 37.13(b)(3), specifies that the validity of birth certificates, presented to document the date of birth or to prove U.S. citizenship, should be verified electronically, by accessing the Electronic Verification of Vital Events (EVVE) system maintained by the National Association of Public Health Statistics and Information Systems (NAPHSIS), rather than directly with the issuers of the birth certificates (such as hospitals).

Linking of license and ID card databases

Each state must agree to share its motor vehicle database with all other states. This database must include, at a minimum, all the data printed on the state drivers' licenses and ID cards, plus drivers' histories (including motor vehicle violations, suspensions, and points on licenses).

Original legislation contained one of the most controversial elements which did not make it into the final legislation that was signed into law. It would have required states to sign a new compact known as the Driver License Agreement (DLA) as written by the Joint Driver's License Compact/ Non-Resident Violators Compact Executive Board with staff support provided by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators AAMVA and as approved by state Driver Licensing Agency representatives. The DLA is a consolidation of the Driver's License Compact and the Non-Resident Violators Compact, which currently have 46 and 45 member states, respectively. The following controversial elements of the DLA are already in the existing compacts: a convicting state must report out-of-state convictions to the licensing state, states must grant license reciprocity to drivers licensed in other states, and states must allow authorities in other states access to driving records, consistent with the Driver Privacy Protection Act.

Foreign Data Sharing

New controversial requirements of the DLA are: (1) provinces and territories in Canada and states in Mexico are allowed to join the DLA and (2) member states, provinces, and territories are subject to reviews by DLA authorities for compliance with the provisions of the DLA. The DLA originated in concept with the 1994 establishment of a North American Driver License Agreement (NADLA) task force, and has created controversy among state representatives opposed to citizen data being shared with other countries.[22] According to a 2005 analysis of the DLA done by the National Conference of State Legislators, the DLA defines "jurisdiction" to allow participation by a territory or province of Canada and by any state of the Republic of Mexico or the Federal District of Mexico. The DLA can be amended by a vote of at least two-thirds of the member jurisdictions.

DHS regulations regarding implementation of the Driver's License provisions of the Act

On January 11, 2008 DHS released the final rule[12] regarding the implementation of the driver's licenses provisions of the Real ID Act. Under the DHS final rule, those states that chose to comply with Driver's License provisions of the Real ID Act are allowed to apply for up to two extensions of the May 11, 2008 deadline for implementing these provisions: an extension until no later than December 31, 2009 and an additional extension until no later than May 11, 2011. The DHS final rule mandates that, as of March 11, 2011, driver's licenses issued by the states that are not deemed to be in full compliance with the Real ID Act, will not be accepted for federal purposes. The Secretary of Homeland Security is given discretion to determine the scope of such official purposes in the future.[23] For the states that do not apply to DHS, by March 31, 2008, for an extension of the May 11, 2008 implementation deadline, that deadline will apply: after May 11, 2008 driver's licenses issued by such states will not be accepted for federal purposes.

After the final May 11, 2011 implementation deadline, some non-Real-ID-compliant licenses will continue to be accepted for federal purposes, provided DHS judges that the state which issued such a license is in full compliance with the Real ID Act by May 11, 2011. However, in order for their licenses to be accepted for federal purposes, all people born after December 1, 1964 will be required to have Real-ID-compliant cards by December 1, 2014. Additionally, in order to be accepted for federal purposes, people born before December 1, 1964 will be required to have Real-ID-compliant cards by December 1, 2017.


As of May 11, 2005, several portions of the Real ID Act have imposed higher burdens and stricter standards of proof for individuals applying for asylum and other related forms of relief. For the first time, immigration judges can require an applicant to produce corroborating evidence (8 U.S.C. § 1229a(c)(4)(B). Additionally, the government may also require that an applicant produce corroborating evidence, a requirement that may only be overcome if the judge is convinced that such evidence is unavailable (8 U.S.C. § 1252(b)(4)).

Restricting illegal immigrants or legal immigrants who can't prove their legal status, or are without social security numbers, from obtaining driver's licenses may keep them from obtaining liability insurance and from working, in practice, causing many immigrants and foreign nationals to lose their jobs or to travel internationally in order to renew their drivers license. Furthermore, for visitors on J-1 and H1B visas, the fact that visas may expire before their legal stay is over (this happens due to the fact that J-1 Visas are issued with a one year expiration date but visitors are allowed to stay for their "duration of stay" as long as they have a valid contract) can make the process of renewing a driver's license extremely complex and, as mentioned above, force legal foreign citizens to travel abroad only to renew a VISA which wouldn't need to be renewed if it weren't for the need to renew one's drivers license. Although the new law does allow states to offer "not for federal ID" licenses in these cases, and that some states (e.g., Utah and Tennessee) have already started issuing such "driving privileges certificates/cards" in lieu of regular drivers licenses, allowing such applicants to be tested and licensed to drive and obtain liability insurance[citation needed], the majority of US states do not plan to offer "not for federal ID" licenses. In October 2007, then-governor of New York Eliot Spitzer announced that the state will adopt a similar "multi-tiered" licensing scheme in which the state will issue three different kinds of driver licenses, two of which comply with the Real ID security requirements and one which will be marked as "not for federal ID" purposes.[24] However, following a political outcry, Spitzer withdrew his proposal to issue licenses to those unable to prove legal residence.[25]

Waiving laws that interfere with construction of border barriers

An earlier law (Section 102 of Pub.L. 104-208, which is now part of 8 U.S.C. § 1103) provided for improvements to physical barriers at the borders of the United States.

Subsection (a) of this law reads as follows: "The Attorney General, in consultation with the Commissioner of Immigration and Naturalization, shall take such actions as may be necessary to install additional physical barriers and roads (including the removal of obstacles to detection of illegal entrants) in the vicinity of the United States border to deter illegal crossings in areas of high illegal entry into the United States."

Subsection (b) orders the Attorney General to commence work on specified improvements to a 14-mile section of the existing border fence near San Diego, and allocates funds for the project.

Subsection (c) provides for waivers of laws that interfere with the work described in subsections (a) and (b). Prior to the Real ID Act, this subsection allowed waivers of only two specific federal environmental laws.

The Real ID Act amends the language of subsection (c) to make the following changes:

  • Allows waivers of any and all laws "necessary to ensure expeditious construction of the barriers and roads under this section."
  • Gives this waiver authority to the Secretary of Homeland Security (rather than the Attorney General). Waivers are made at his sole discretion.
  • Restricts court review of waiver decisions: "The district courts of the United States shall have exclusive jurisdiction to hear all causes or claims arising from any action undertaken, or any decision made, by the Secretary of Homeland Security pursuant to paragraph (1). A cause of action or claim may only be brought alleging a violation of the Constitution of the United States. The court shall not have jurisdiction to hear any claim not specified in this subparagraph." Claims are barred unless filed within 60 days, and cases may be appealed "only upon petition for a writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court".

Application for asylum; deportation of aliens for terrorist activity

The Real ID Act introduces stricter laws governing applications for asylum and deportation of aliens for terrorist activity. However, at the same time, it makes two minor changes to U.S. immigration law:

  • Elimination of the 10,000 annual limit for previously approved asylees to adjust to permanent legal residence. This had been urged for years because the average asylee had a 17-year wait before he would be able to achieve legal resident status[citation needed]. As a result, in fiscal years 2005 and 2006, the backlog was greatly reduced as 147,131 asylees were granted legal permanent residence status[citation needed].
  • Usage of 50,000 unused employment-based visas from 2003. This was a compromise between proponents who had earlier tried to include all employment visas which went unused between 2001 and 2004, and immigration restrictionists. They were used, mostly in fiscal year 2006, for Schedule A workers newly arrived mainly from the Philippines and India, rather than for adjustments of status cases like the American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act.[citation needed]

The deportation of aliens for terrorist activities is governed by the following provisions:

Section 212(a)(3)(B): Terrorist activities

The INA (Immigration & Nationality Act) defines "terrorist activity" to mean any activity which is unlawful under the laws of the place where it is committed (or which, if committed in the United States, would be unlawful under the laws of the United States or any State) and which involves any of the following:

  • (I) The hijacking or sabotage of any conveyance (including an aircraft, vessel, or vehicle).
  • (II) The seizing or detaining, and threatening to kill, injure, or continue to detain, another individual in order to compel a third person (including a governmental organization) to do or abstain from doing any act as an explicit or implicit condition for the release of the individual seized or detained.
  • (III) A violent attack upon an internationally protected person (as defined in Section 1116(b)(4) of Title 18, United States Code) or upon the liberty of such a person.
  • (IV) An assassination.
  • (V) The use of any:
    • (a) biological agent, chemical agent, or nuclear weapon or device.
    • (b) explosive, firearm, or other weapon or dangerous device (other than for mere personal monetary gain), with intent to endanger, directly or indirectly, the safety of one or more individuals or to cause substantial damage to property.
  • (VI) A threat, attempt, or conspiracy to do any of the foregoing.

Other pertinent portions of Section 212(a)(3)(B) are set forth below:

"Engage in terrorist activity" defined

As used in this chapter (Chapter 8 of the INA), the term, "engage in terrorist activity" means in an individual capacity or as a member of an organization:

  • to commit or to incite to commit, under circumstances indicating an intention to cause death or serious bodily injury, a terrorist activity;
  • to gather information on potential targets for terrorist activity;
  • to prepare or plan a terrorist activity;
  • to solicit funds or other things of value for:
    • (aa) a terrorist activity;
    • (bb) a terrorist organization described in Clause (vi)(I) or (vi)(II);
    • (cc) a terrorist organization described in Clause (vi)(III), unless the solicitor can demonstrate that he did not know, and should not reasonably have known, that the solicitation would further the organization’s terrorist activity;
  • to solicit any individual:
    • (aa) to engage in conduct otherwise described in this clause;
    • (bb) for membership in terrorist organization described in Clause (vi)(I) or (vi)(II); or
    • (cc) for membership in a terrorist organization described in Clause (vi)(III), unless the solicitor can demonstrate that he did not know, and should not reasonably have known, that the solicitation would further the organization’s terrorist activity; or
  • to commit an act that the actor knows, or reasonably should know, affords material support, including a safe house, transportation, communications, funds, transfer of funds or other material financial benefit, false documentation or identification, weapons (including chemical, biological, or radiological weapons), explosives, or training:
    • (aa) for the commission of a terrorist activity;
    • (bb) to any individual who the actor knows, or reasonably should know, has committed or plans to commit a terrorist activity;
    • (cc) to a terrorist organization described in Clause (vi)(I) or (vi)(II); or
    • (dd) to a terrorist organization described in Clause (vi)(III), unless the actor can demonstrate that he did not know, and should not reasonably have known, that the act would further the organization’s terrorist activity.

This clause shall not apply to any material support the alien afforded to an organization or individual that has committed terrorist activity, if the Secretary of State, after consultation with the Attorney General, or the Attorney General, after consultation with the Secretary of State, concludes in his sole unreviewable discretion, that that this clause should not apply."

"Representative" defined

As used in this paragraph, the term, "representative" includes an officer, official, or spokesman of an organization, and any person who directs, counsels, commands, or induces an organization or its members to engage in terrorist activity.

"Terrorist organization" defined

As used in Clause (i)(VI) and Clause (iv), the term ‘terrorist organization’ means an organization:

  • designated under Section 219 (8 U.S.C. § 1189);
  • otherwise designated, upon publication in the Federal Register, by the Secretary of State in consultation with or upon the request of the Attorney General, as a terrorist organization, after finding that the organization engages in the activities described in Subclause (I), (II), or (III) of Clause (iv), or that the organization provides material support to further terrorist activity; or
  • that is a group of two or more individuals, whether organized or not, which engages in the activities described in Subclause (I), (II), or (III) of Clause (iv).

Section 140(d)(2) of the "Foreign Relations Authorization Act", Fiscal Years 1988 and 1989 defines "terrorism" as "premeditated, politically motivated violence, perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents."

Other provisions

Delivery bonds

The Real ID Act introduces complex rules covering "delivery bonds." These resemble bail bonds, but are to be required for aliens that have been released pending hearings.

Miscellaneous provisions

The remaining sections of the Real ID Act allocate funding for some reports and pilot projects related to border security, and change visa limits for temporary workers, nurses, and Australians.

Under the REAL ID Act, nationals of Australia are eligible to receive a special E-3 visa. This provision was the result of negotiations between the two countries that also led to the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement which came into force on January 1, 2005.

Controversy and opposition

The Real ID Act has faced criticism from across the political spectrum and remains the subject of several ongoing controversies. Opponents of the Real ID Act include libertarian groups[26], in particular the Cato Institute; immigrant advocacy groups; human and civil rights organizations, including ACLU; Christian advocacy groups such as the ACLJ;[27] privacy advocacy groups, including 511 campaign; state-level citizen's groups such as North Carolinians Against Real ID [28] and Floridians Against REAL ID [29]; good government and government accountability groups; labor groups such as AFL-CIO; People for the American Way; consumer and patient protection groups; some gun rights groups; many state lawmakers, state legislatures and governors; The Constitution Party and others.[30][31] Real ID is opposed by such groups as Gun Owners of America, by the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal as well as the Obama administration. Along with the Bush administration, the Real ID Act is strongly supported by the conservative Heritage Foundation and by many anti-illegal immigration advocates.[30] Founded by evangelical Christian Pat Robertson, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) participated in a joint press conference with the ACLU in 2008, highlighting the broad diversity of the coalition opposing Title II of the REAL ID Act.[32] The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence has also voiced concern about REAL ID.[33]

Several legal challenges to REAL ID are underway by individuals in state courts, including Adrian Wyllie in Florida[34] and Kaye Beach in Oklahoma.[35]

Among the 2008 presidential candidates, according to a February 2008 CNet report at, John McCain strongly supported the Real ID Act, Barack Obama and Ron Paul flatly opposed it, while Hillary Clinton called for the law to be reviewed.[36] In a September 2007 interview Mike Huckabee expressed opposition to the Real ID Act, calling the Real ID Act "a huge mistake".[37]

Congressional passage procedure controversy

The original Real ID Act, H. R. 418, was approved by the House on February 10, 2005 by a vote of 261-161. At the insistence of the Real ID Act sponsor and then House Judiciary Committee Chair F. James Sensenbrenner (Republican, Wisconsin), the Real ID Act was subsequently attached by the House Republican leadership as a rider to H.R. 1268, a bill dealing with emergency appropriations for the Iraq War and with the Tsunami relief funding. H.R. 1268 was widely regarded as a "must-pass" legislation. The original version of H.R. 1268 was passed by the Senate on April 21, 2005 and did not include the Real ID Act. However, the Real ID Act was inserted in the conference report on H.R. 1268 that was then passed by the House on May 5, 2005 by a 368-58 vote and was unanimously passed by the Senate on May 10, 2005.[38] The Senate never discussed or voted on the Real ID Act specifically and no Senate committee hearings were conducted on the Real ID Act prior to its passage.[39] Critics charged that this procedure was undemocratic and that the bill's proponents avoided a substantive debate on a far-reaching piece of legislation by attaching it to a "must-pass" bill.[39][40][41][42]

A May 3, 2005 statement by the American Immigration Lawyers Association said: "Because Congress held no hearings or meaningful debate on the legislation and amended it to a must-pass spending bill, the REAL ID Act did not receive the scrutiny necessary for most measures, and most certainly not the level required for a measure of this importance and impact. Consistent with the lack of debate and discussion, conference negotiations also were held behind closed doors, with Democrats prevented from participating."[43]

National ID card controversy

There is disagreement about whether the Real ID Act institutes a "national identification card" system.[44] The new law only sets forth national standards, but leaves the issuance of cards and the maintenance of databases in state hands; therefore, the Department of Homeland Security claims it is not a "national ID" system.[45] Web sites such as,, and argue that this is a trivial distinction, and that the new cards are in fact national ID cards, thanks to the uniform national standards created by the AAMVA and (especially) the linked databases, and by the fact that such identification is mandatory if people wish to travel out of the US.

Many advocacy groups and individual opponents of the Real ID Act believe that having a Real ID-compliant license may become a requirement for various basic tasks. Thus a January 2008 statement by ACLU of Maryland says: "The law places no limits on potential required uses for Real IDs. In time, Real IDs could be required to vote, collect a Social Security check, access Medicaid, open a bank account, go to an Orioles game, or buy a gun. The private sector could begin mandating a Real ID to perform countless commercial and financial activities, such as renting a DVD or buying car insurance. Real ID cards would become a necessity, making them de facto national IDs." However, in order to perform many of those tasks, government-issued identification is already required (e.g., two forms of ID - usually a driver's license, passport, or Social Security card - are required by the Patriot Act in order to open a bank account).[46]

State adoption and non-compliance

Portions of the Real ID Act pertaining to states were scheduled to take effect on May 11, 2008, three years after the law passed, but the deadline had been extended to December 31, 2009.[47] On January 11, 2008, it was announced the deadline has been extended again, until 2011, in hopes of gaining more support from states.[11]

On January 25, 2007, a Resolution passed overwhelmingly in the Maine Legislature that refuses implementation of the Real ID Act in that state, and calls on Congress to repeal the law. Many Maine lawmakers believe the law does more harm than good, that it would be a bureaucratic nightmare to enforce, is threatening to individual privacy, makes citizens increasingly vulnerable to ID theft, and would cost Maine taxpayers at least $185 million in five years because of the massive unfunded federal mandates on all the states. The Resolution vote in the Maine House was 137-4 and in the Maine Senate unanimous, 34-0.[48]

On February 16, 2007, Utah unanimously passed a resolution that opposes the REAL ID Act.[49] The resolution states that REAL ID is "in opposition to the Jeffersonian principles of individual liberty, free markets, and limited government." It further states that "the use of identification-based security cannot be justified as part of a 'layered' security system if the costs of the identification 'layer'--in dollars, lost privacy, and lost liberty--are greater than the security identification provides":

"the "common machine-readable technology" required by the REAL ID Act would convert state-issued driver licenses and identification cards into tracking devices, allowing computers to note and record people's whereabouts each time they are identified"

"the requirement that states maintain databases of information about their citizens and residents and then share this personal information with all other states will expose every state to the information security weaknesses of every other state and threaten the privacy of every American"

"the REAL ID Act wrongly coerces states into doing the federal government's bidding by threatening to refuse noncomplying states' citizens the privileges and immunities enjoyed by other states' citizens"

Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington have joined Maine and Utah in passing legislation opposing Real ID.[50][51][52][53][54][55]

Similar resolutions are pending in Alaska, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, D.C., West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.[56]

Other states have moved aggressively to upgrade their IDs since 9/11, and still others have staked decidedly pro-Real ID positions, such as North Carolina.[57] Some states whose legislatures passed non-binding resolutions opposing REAL ID are nonetheless working to comply with the law, such as Illinois.[58] In announcing the new regulations, Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff cited California, Alabama and North Dakota[59] as examples of states that had made progress in complying with Real ID.

On July 7, 2008, PR-Governor Aníbal Acevedo Vilá announced that all 15 Puerto Rico Department of Transportation and Public Works Driver's Services Center will implement a new system complying with the Real-ID Act.[60] \ As of January 29, 2008, the Department of Homeland Security has announced $79.8 million in grant monies[61] to assist states with REAL ID implementation, and set an application deadline of March 7, 2008.

On April 16, 2009 the Missouri House of Representatives passed the anti REAL ID bill HB 361 to repeal section 302.171, RSMo, and to enact in lieu thereof two new sections relating to noncompliance with the federal REAL ID Act of 2005 sponsored by Representative Jim Guest by a vote of 83 Ayes 69 Noes and 3 Present. On May 13, 2009 the Missouri Senate unanimously passed HB 361, 43 Ayes 0 Noes. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon signed this bill into law on July 13, 2009.[62]

For the 2012 Florida Legislative Session, an anti-REAL ID bill, HB 109 [63] and Senate companion S 220 [64] will be heard. Named the Florida Driver's License Citizen Protection Act[65], it would require discontinuation of several of the federally-mandated provisions of REAL ID and destruction of citizen's documents that had been scanned into the government database.


Some critics claim that the Real ID Act violates the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution as a federal legislation in an area that, under the terms of the Tenth Amendment, is the province of the states. Thus, Anthony Romero, the executive director of ACLU, stated: "... Real ID is an unfunded mandate that violates the Constitution's 10th Amendment on state powers, destroys states' dual sovereignty and consolidates every American's private information, leaving all of us far more vulnerable to identity thieves.".[66]

Former Republican U.S. Representative Bob Barr wrote in a February 2008 article: "A person not possessing a Real ID Act-compliant identification card could not enter any federal building, or an office of his or her congressman or senator or the U.S. Capitol. This effectively denies that person their fundamental rights to assembly and to petition the government as guaranteed in the First Amendment." [67]

The DHS final rule [12] regarding implementation of the Real ID Act discusses a number of constitutional concerns raised by the commenters on the proposed version of this rule. The DHS rule explicitly rejects the assertion that the implementation of the Real ID Act will lead to violations of the citizens' individual constitutional rights (page 5284 of the DHS rule in the Federal register). In relation to the Tenth Amendment argument about violation of states' constitutional rights, the DHS rule acknowledges that that these concerns have been raised by a number of individual commenters and in the comments by some states. The DHS rule does not attempt to rebuff the Tenth Amendment argument directly, but says that the DHS is acting in accordance with the authority granted to it by the Real ID Act and that DHS has been and will be working closely with the states on the implementation of the Real ID Act (pages 5284 and 5317 of the DHS final rule in the Federal Register).

On November 1, 2007, attorneys for Defenders of Wildlife and the Sierra Club filed an amended complaint in U.S. District Court challenging the 2005 REAL ID Act. The amended complaint alleges that this unprecedented authority violates the fundamental separation of powers principles enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. The environmental groups argue that Congress unconstitutionally delegated the power to the Department of Homeland Security (an appointed Executive branch not accountable to the public) to pick and choose which laws will apply to border wall construction. On December 18, 2007, Judge Ellen S. Huvelle rejected the challenge.[68][69]

On March 17, 2008, attorneys for Defenders of Wildlife and the Sierra Club filed a Petition for a Writ of Certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court to hear its "constitutional challenge to the Secretary’s decision waiving nineteen federal laws, and all state and local legal requirements related to them, in connection with the construction of a barrier along a portion of the border with Mexico".[70][71] They question whether the preclusion of judicial review amounts to an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power and whether the "grant of waiver authority violates Article I’s requirement that a duly-enacted law may be repealed only by legislation approved by both Houses of Congress and presented to the President".[70] On April 17, 2008, numerous amicus briefs "supporting the petition were filed on behalf 14 members of Congress, a diverse coalition of conservation, religious and Native American organizations, and 28 law professors and constitutional scholars".[72][73][74]

Asylum and deportation controversy

Many immigrant and civil rights advocates feel that the changes related to evidentiary standards and the immigration officers' discretion in asylum cases, contained in the Real ID Act, would prevent many legitimate asylum seekers from obtaining asylum.[75] .[76] Thus a 2005 article in LCCR-sponsored "Civil Rights Monitor" says: "The bill also contained changes to asylum standards, which according to LCCR, would prevent many legitimate asylum seekers from obtaining safe haven in the United States. These changes gave immigration officials broad discretion to demand certain evidence to support an asylum claim, with little regard to whether the evidence can realistically be obtained; as well as the discretion to deny claims based on such subjective factors as "demeanor". Critics said the reason for putting such asylum restrictions into what was being sold as an anti terrorism bill was unclear, given that suspected terrorists are already barred from obtaining asylum or any other immigration benefit. " .[75]

Similarly, some immigration and human rights advocacy groups maintain that the Real ID Act provides an overly broad definition of "terrorist activity" that will prevent some deserving categories of applicants from gaining asylum or refugee status in the United States.[77] A November 2007 report by Human Rights Watch raises this criticism specifically in relation to former child soldiers who have been forcibly and illegally recruited to participate in an armed group.[78]

Judicial review controversy

A previous version of the Real ID Act (H.R. 418) would have prohibited any judicial review of Homeland Security law waivers for barrier construction. Critics maintained that this would elevate the Secretary of Homeland Security above the law, and this language was changed in the final version (H.R. 1268).

But even the limited restrictions on judicial review remain controversial. Supporters of the Real ID Act see a need to restrain so-called "judicial activism" so needed barriers can be built.[citation needed] Opponents assert that the restrictions on judicial review may exceed the authority Congress has to regulate the courts (as spelled out in Article Three of the United States Constitution), and violate the principle of separation of powers.[citation needed]


Many privacy rights advocates charge that by creating a national system electronically storing vast amounts of detailed personal data about individuals, the Real ID Act increases the chance of such data being stolen and thus raises the risk of identity theft.[79] [80] [81] [82] The Bush administration, in the DHS final rule [12] regarding the Real ID Act implementation, counters that the security precautions regarding handling sensitive personal data and hiring DMV workers, that are specified in the Real ID Act and in the DHS final rule, provide sufficient protections against unauthorized use and theft of such personal data (pages 5281-5283 of the DHS final rule in the Federal Register).

Another privacy concern raised by the privacy advocates, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, is that the implementation of the Real ID Act will make it substantially easier for the government to track numerous activities of Americans and conduct their surveillance.[83] [84]

Supporters of the Real ID Act, such as a conservative think-tank the Heritage Foundation, dismiss this criticism under the grounds that states will be permitted (by law) to share data only when validating someone's identity.[83]

The Data Privacy and Integrity Advisory Committee, which was established to advise the Department of Homeland Security on privacy-related issues, released a statement regarding the Department of Homeland Security's proposed rules for the standardization of state driver licenses on May 7, 2007.[85] The committee stated that "Given that these issues have not received adequate consideration, the Committee feels it is important that the following comments do not constitute an endorsement of REAL ID or the regulations as workable or appropriate," and "The issues pose serious risks to an individual’s privacy and, without amelioration, could undermine the stated goals of the REAL ID Act."

Congressional efforts to change or repeal the Real ID Act

On February 28, 2007 U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka [D-HI] introduced the Senate Bill S. 717, "Identification Security Enhancement Act of 2007", subtitled: "A bill to repeal title II of the REAL ID Act of 2005, to restore section 7212 of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, which provides States additional regulatory flexibility and funding authorization to more rapidly produce tamper- and counterfeit-resistant driver's licenses, and to protect privacy and civil liberties by providing interested stakeholders on a negotiated rulemaking with guidance to achieve improved 21st century licenses to improve national security".[86] The bill is co-sponsored by Senators Lamar Alexander [R-TN], Max Baucus [D-MT], Patrick Leahy [D-VT], John E. Sununu [R-NH], Jon Tester [D-MT]. The bill was read twice and referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary on February 28, 2007.

A similar bill was introduced on February 16, 2007 in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Thomas Allen [D-ME], with 32 co-sponsors (all Democrats). The House bill, H.R. 1117, "REAL ID Repeal and Identification Security Enhancement Act of 2007", is subtitled: "A bill to repeal title II of the REAL ID Act of 2005, to restore section 7212 of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, which provides States additional regulatory flexibility and funding authorization to more rapidly produce tamper- and counterfeit-resistant driver's licenses, and to protect privacy and civil liberties by providing interested stakeholders on a negotiated rulemaking with guidance to achieve improved 21st century licenses to improve national security." [87] On May 23, 2007, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee referred H.R. 1117 to the Subcommittee on Government Management, Organization, and Procurement.

A more limited bill, S. 563, that would extend the deadlines for the states' compliance with the Real ID Act, was introduced on February 13, 2007 in the U.S. Senate by Sen. Susan Collins [R, ME], together with Senators Lamar Alexander [R, TN], Thomas Carper [D, DE], Charles Hagel [R, NE], and Olympia Snowe [R, ME].[88]

See also


  1. ^ Virginia Receives Extension On REAL ID Requirements from a Mar 31, 2008 article
  2. ^ Obama administration delays rule to improve driver's license security, a March 4, 2011 CNN article
  3. ^ a b Pub.L. 109-13
  4. ^ States get "Real ID" extensions
  5. ^ Obama will inherit a real mess on Real ID
  6. ^ H.R. 1117: REAL ID Repeal and Identification Security Enhancement Act of 2007
  7. ^ 261-161-11
  8. ^ HR 1268: Making emergency supplemental appropriations
  9. ^
  10. ^ States get More Time on National ID Law, LA Times, January 12, 2008
  11. ^ a b New rules on licenses pit states against feds
  12. ^ a b c d e f g DHS REAL ID Final Rule, January 11, 2008
  13. ^ Biometric Bits
  14. ^ Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 , Accessed February 19, 2008
  15. ^
  16. ^ "Transportation Security Administration: Information for Travelers"
  17. ^ Homeland Security: REAL ID Final Rule
  18. ^ Page 94
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^ Real ID Act of 2005, full text
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^ Spitzer Tries New Tack on Immigrant Licenses
  25. ^ Confessore, Nicholas (2007), “Spitzer Drops Bid to Offer Licenses More Widely”, The New York Times, 14 November
  26. ^ "Florida Libertarian Party chairman surrenders driver's license in Real ID protest"
  27. ^
  28. ^ North Carolinians Against Real ID website
  29. ^ Floridians Against REAL ID website
  30. ^ a b "Congress rethinks the Real ID Act". CNet, May 8, 2007. Retrieved 2008-07-07. 
  31. ^ The Privacy Coalition Accessed February 17, 2008
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^ Libertarian gets ticketed on purpose to make argument in court - St. Petersburg Times
  35. ^ OK Woman's Legal Battle: REAL ID Driver's License Unconstitutional - The New American
  36. ^ McCullagh, Declan. "In '08 presidential race, who's the most tech-friendly?", CNET, February 5, 2008. Accessed February 17, 2008
  37. ^ "Mike Huckabee: The RCP Interview". Real Clear Politics. September 25, 2007. Retrieved 2008-07-07. 
  38. ^ H.R. 1268 Legislative History,
  39. ^ a b Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy May 8, 2007. Accessed February 18, 2008
  40. ^ "No Real Debate for Real ID". May 10, 2005. Retrieved 2008-07-07. 
  41. ^ "". Immigrants' Rights Update, Vol. 19, Issue 2, March 31, 2005; March 31, 2005. Retrieved 2008-07-07. 
  42. ^ Real ID Act Attached to “Must-Pass” Spending Bill Imposes Anti-Immigrant Measures Democracy Now! April 29, 2005. Accessed February 17, 2008
  43. ^ AILA Statement on REAL ID May 3, 2005
  44. ^ McCullagh, Declan. "FAQ: How Real ID will affect you", CNET, May 6, 2005. Accessed May 5, 2007
  45. ^ DHS: REAL ID Proposed Guidelines: Questions & Answers
  46. ^ ACLU Of Maryland Blasts New Real ID Regulations, January 15, 2008. Accessed February 17, 2008
  47. ^
  48. ^ An Act To Prohibit Maine from Participating in the Federal REAL ID Act of 2005
  50. ^ 'Washington Becomes Fourth State to Oppose REAL ID',, April 5, 2007. Accessed July 23, 2007.
  51. ^ "Congress rethinks the Real ID Act", CNET, May 8, 2007. Accessed July 23, 2007.
  52. ^ 'National ID Cards and REAL ID Act', Electronic Privacy Information Center. Accessed July 23, 2007.
  53. ^ 'Gov signs law rejecting Real ID act',, April 17, 2007. Accessed July 23, 2007.
  54. ^ 'Bill Information for SJR0248' Tennessee State Legislature. Accessed August 8, 2007.
  55. ^ [1] Napolitano: Real ID a no-go in Arizona
  56. ^ "Status of Anti-Real ID Legislation in the States", ACLU, . Accessed November 4, 2007.
  57. ^ "Remarks of the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner to the North Carolina Joint Legislative Committee on Transportation Oversight, December 12, 2006". National Conference of State Legislatures. 2006-12-12. Archived from the original on 2008-06-16. Retrieved 2010-02-07. 
  58. ^ Illinois Pantagraph, New Illinois licenses needed by 2010 for airport security, January 27, 2008
  59. ^
  60. ^ La Fortaleza press statement, July 7, 2008
  61. ^ DHS press release: DHS Increases Funding For REAL ID Grant Program and Extends Applications Deadline, January 29, 2008
  62. ^ [2]
  63. ^ Florida Legislature: House Bill 109 as of September 19, 2011
  64. ^ Florida Legislature: Senate Bill 220 as of September 19, 2011
  65. ^ Floridians Against REAL ID: Florida Driver's License Citizen Protection Act as of September 19, 2011
  66. ^ "Opposing view: Repeal Real ID". USA Today. March 6, 2007. Retrieved 2008-02-15. 
  67. ^ "Real ID Act a real intrusion on rights, privacy". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. February 6, 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-15. 
  68. ^ Border Fence Construction: San Pedro Riparian NCA - Defenders of Wildlife
  69. ^ Conservation Groups Challenge Chertoff's Waiver Power as Unconstitutional - Defenders of Wildlife
  70. ^ a b "Petition for Writ of Certiorari re: San Pedro Border Case" (PDF). 2008-03-17. pp. 2. Retrieved 2008-09-16. 
  71. ^ "U.S. Supreme Court Asked to Answer: Is Chertoff Above the Law?". Defenders of Wildlife. 2008-03-17. Retrieved 2008-09-16. 
  72. ^ "Congress to hold field hearing on border wall". Defenders of Wildlife. 2008-04-25. Retrieved 2008-09-16. 
  73. ^ "Wildlife and Border Policy". Defenders of Wildlife. April 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-16. 
  74. ^ "Congressional, religious, cultural and academic leaders urge Supreme Court to hear challenge to border wall". Defenders of Wildlife. 2008-04-18. Retrieved 2008-09-16. 
  75. ^ a b "Anti-immigrant "REAL ID" Act Becomes Law". Civil Rights Monitor, Vol. 15, No. 1 (Fall/Winter 2005). 2005. Retrieved 2008-02-16. 
  76. ^ "The "REAL ID" Act is a Really Bad Idea" (PDF). National Immigration Law Center, March 2005. Retrieved 2008-02-16. 
  77. ^ "AIUSA Issue Brief: The REAL ID Act of 2005 and Its Negative Impact on Asylum Seekers". Amnesty International USA. March 2005. Retrieved 2008-02-17. 
  78. ^ "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Compliance with the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict" (PDF). Human Rights Watch, November 2007. Retrieved 2008-02-17. 
  79. ^ "ACLU Real ID Scorecard" (PDF)., ACLU. January 17, 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-17. 
  80. ^ "Real ID Act Will Increase Exposure to ID Theft". Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, February 28, 2007. Retrieved 2008-02-17. 
  81. ^ "The Many Faces of the Real ID Act". PrivacyActivism, February 28, 2007. Retrieved 2008-02-17. 
  82. ^ "Real ID Act mostly helps identity thieves". San Jose Mercury News. May 19, 2005. Retrieved 2008-02-17. 
  83. ^ a b "Federal ID plan raises privacy concerns". CNN, August 16, 2007. Retrieved 2008-02-17. 
  84. ^ "Real ID. Threatening Your Privacy Through an Unfunded Government Mandate". Electronic Frontier Foundation, August 16, 2007. Retrieved 2008-02-17. 
  85. ^ Ryan Singel. 7 May 2007. Homeland Security's Own Privacy Panel Declines to Endorse License Rules.
  86. ^ S. 717: Identification Security Enhancement Act of 2007 Access date February 17, 2008
  87. ^ H.R. 1117: REAL ID Repeal and Identification Security Enhancement Act of 2007 Access date February 17, 2008
  88. ^ S. 563: A bill to extend the deadline by which State identification documents shall comply with certain minimum standards and for other purposes Access date February 18, 2008

External links

  • REAL ID Solution: REAL Search: The Law requires Verification of all forms of ID. Perform Verification of SSN & EIN Numbers & Drivers License Verification. [3] Offers a Free Trial & various subscriptions
  • Broad coalition launches campaign to urge the public to submit comments to Dept. of Homeland Security regarding REAL ID program. Comments due May 8, 2007. [4]
  • Actual proposed rules Search ID: DHS-2006-0030-0001 Click on "Docket ID" for commentary.
  • Real ID - The Art of the Possible [5]
  • National Governor's Association (NGA) and National Council of State Legislator's (NCSL) REAL ID Impact Analyis [6]
  • 9/11 Security Solutions, LLC Identity Document Security Library [7]
  • U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia
    Title: Understanding the Realities of REAL ID: A Review of Efforts to Secure Drivers' Licenses and Identification Cards
  • [9] which covers developments around the US REAL ID proposal as well as the USDA National Animal Identification System which is a remarkably similar system for animals.
  • From California DMV: Report to the Legislature on the Status of the REAL ID Act
  • Legislators Against REAL ID [10]
  • REAL ID Nightmare [11]
  • The American Civil Liberties Union's position against REAL ID [12]
  • Report: No Freedom Without Privacy: The Real ID Act's Assault on Americans' Everyday Lives, an NYCLU report on the Real ID Act's impact on civil liberties.
  • Comments of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and [Experts in Privacy and Technology] against Homeland Security's Real_ID Bill [13]
  • Alaska Libertarian Party on the REAL ID Act and the Tenth Amendment. [14]
  • Liberty Coalition on National ID [15]
  • Beware the IDs of March [16]
  • Real ID Vulnerabilities: A Real Security Threat
  • Coalition for a Secure Driver's License, an advocacy group supporting the Real ID Act

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